Women4Climate Mentorship 2023

The C40 Auckland Women4Climate Mentorship Programme matches committed leaders from the business sector, international organisations, and community organisations with emerging women leaders.

The mentors will share their knowledge and experiences, supporting the mentees in becoming powerful leaders in their chosen fields, including politics, non-profits, business, media, community groups and more.

Keep reading to meet the programme mentees and mentors, and consult the application guidelines for more details about the selection process.


Postgraduate Student


Project name: The Roll-out of Auckland Council’s Food Scraps Collection Service

Elise O’Brien is an engineer who is passionate about reducing waste and recovering resources. She is working as a senior organic waste specialist for Auckland Council delivering a food waste collection and processing service to 520,000 households.

Elise is concurrently studying for a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development.

Her Mentor

Elise O’Brien is currently supported by the Women4Climate Mentorship Programme.


Project name: Climate Resilience of Auckland’s Transport Infrastructure

Hayley Martin works in sustainability and resilience for an engineering and advisory firm. She is passionate about mitigating and adapting to the effects of the climate crisis.

Hayley’s project will focus on embedding climate change risk assessments to allow Auckland’s transport infrastructure to be resilient to climate shocks and stresses.

Her Mentor

Hayley Martin is currently supported by the Women4Climate Mentorship Programme.

Data Analyst


Project name: Permaways, Finding the Way: Permaculture for Everyone, Everywhere 

Teresina Robredo De la Vega works in freshwater conservation waste minimisation and as Data Analyst for a water consultancy. She believes that we can all walk the talk by implementing permaculture principles in our lives and businesses, connecting with others, and living more consciously.

She always enjoys challenges, new experiences, and a good cup of coffee.

Her Mentor

Teresina Robredo De la Vega is currently supported by the Women4Climate Mentorship Programme.

Policy Analyst


Project name: Spongy Homes for a Climate-resilient Tāmaki

Cathy Xiong is a policy analyst at the Ministry for the Environment, working on freshwater, resource allocation and Māori rights and interests. She is currently volunteering for the Auckland chapter of Generation Zero.

Previously, she created educational resources on water and climate change, carried out sustainability research for a national science challenge, and consulted as a water engineer. She has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering.

Cathy’s Women4Climate project involves making homes in Auckland more “spongy”, by creating educational modules on water sensitive design changes and implementing construction work to buildings in underserved communities.

Her Mentor

Cathy Xiong  is currently supported by the Women4Climate Mentorship Programme.

Sustainability Consultant


Project name: Communication, Education, and Sustainability Implementation in the Auckland Wine Industry

Ko Te Mata te maunga

Ko Tūtaekuri te awa

Nō Ahuriri ahau

Ko Ali Lowrey tōku ingoa

Ali Lowrey is a sustainability consultant and a science communicator. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Auckland, specialising in wine science. Her research included relationships between soil chemistry, climate change, and agrochemical applications, and assessing connections between vineyard terroir, matauranga Māori and kaitiakitanga.

She is originally from the Hawke’s Bay, where her knowledge and passion for wine and the environment began – and the foundation of being a firm supporter of the local New Zealand food and beverage industry.

She believes that new and exciting scientific discoveries should be made available to all, shared over a glass of local New Zealand wine.

Her Mentor

Ali Lowrey is currently supported by the Women4Climate Mentorship Programme.

Healthy Waters Specialist


Project name: Fish Passage Remediation Programme and Coastal and Stream Outfalls Programme

Kia Ora tatou   (Dia Dhuit gach duine)

Ko Killney Hill te mauga (killney hill is é mo shliabh)

Ko Sandycover te awa (Sandycover is é mo uisce)

No Dublin ahau(Dublin is é mo chonai)

Ke Kennedy toku Whanau(Is mise Inion ni Chinneide)

Ko Aoibhe Toku Ingoa(Is Mise Aoibhe)

Aoibhe Kennedy is a healthy waters specialist with Auckland Council, leading two workstreams for the Storm Readiness Delivery Team; namely, the Streams and Coastal Outfalls Programme and the Fish Passage Improvement Programme.

Previously, Aoibhe travelled the world teaching scuba diving and shadowed a marine biologist in the Pacific Islands, getting educated on conservation. Through this work, Aoibhe grew a respect for the marine environment and developed a keen interest in sustainability.

As part of the sustainability champions network in Auckland Council, Aoibhe has contributed to their initiatives.

Her Mentor

Aoibhe Kennedy is currently supported by the Women4Climate Mentorship Programme.

Senior Project Manager


Project name: Gas Boiler Phase-out Programme 

Deena Benjamin is an enterprising manager who ardently champions sustainability and climate action at home and in the workplace.

Deena is currently working on reducing the carbon footprint of swimming centres across Auckland by replacing gas boilers with electric heating systems and installing solar panels.

She is passionate about seeing lives transformed and enriched.

Her Mentor

Deena Benjamin is currently supported by the Women4Climate Mentorship Programme.

Operations Manager


Project name: Reducing Carbon Emissions Across the Hauraki Gulf Island

Katharine Lane is Operations Manager for the Department of Conservation (DOC) managed Hauraki Gulf Inner Islands, from Hauturu-o-Toi in the north to Te Motu-a-Ihenga (Motuihe) in the south.

After moving to New Zealand in 2016, Katharine started work for DOC as Auckland Mainland Senior Ranger Community, working to promote ‘predator free’ initiatives across the Auckland region. She now manages a team of 30 rangers across the Gulf Islands. Katharine is looking for innovative methods and partnerships to reduce carbon emissions across the Hauraki Gulf Islands and reach DOC’s goal of a net-zero carbon target.

Katharine has recently become a mum, which has supercharged her motivation to take positive climate action, starting with the decarbonisation of the Hauraki Gulf islands.

Her Mentor

Katharine Lane is currently supported by the Women4Climate Mentorship Programme.

Product Manager


Project name: Promoting Sustainability in the Workplace

Zoë Garrett is passionate about sustainability and tries to incorporate volunteer activities and initiatives around the home and workplace as part of her ‘business-as-usual’ approach. She is exceptionally excited to have the opportunity to expand her reach even further with the opportunities provided by the C40 Cities Women4Climate mentoring programme.

Zoë is an avid runner and loves to get out in her natural environment, which provides her with a personal inspiration to ensure it is protected and functioning optimally for generations to come.

Her Mentor

Zoë Garrett is currently supported by the Women4Climate Mentorship Programme.


Associate Director of Design (Urban Planning)


Position: Director, The Urbanist + Associate Director of Design (Urban Planning) at Te Pare, School of Architecture and Planning at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland

Zoë Avery is an authentic problem-solver focussing on resilient strategies, design and policy at University of Auckland and The Urbanist.

Her studio work and research areas include regenerative design, climate change adaptation, urban sustainability, nature-based solutions, and urban design and urban planning policy development.

General Manager


Position: General Manager, Sustainability, Mercury

Lucie Drummond is responsible for the overall strategic framework and environmental, social, and corporate governance at Mercury. She leads the organisation’s external communications, regulatory and government relations functions.

She joined Mercury in 2012 and prior to this, practised environmental and energy law in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.



Position: CEO, Facilities Management Association of New Zealand

Jo Duggan is a highly experienced business leader with almost 30 years of expertise in the property and construction industry.

As CEO of the Facilities Management Association of New Zealand, she is committed to promoting sustainable building practices and driving growth and professionalism of the industry.

Environment Programme Director


Position: Environment Programme Director at Auckland Transport

Dr Cathy Bebelman is a scientist with expertise in the technical areas of environmental sustainability and transport infrastructure.

As the Environment Programme Director, Cathy leads the environment, climate change adaptation and embodied emissions reduction programmes for Auckland Transport.

Head of Communications


Position: Head of Communications and Marketing, Sustainable Business Network

Fiona Stephenson is one of New Zealand’s most experienced communicators of sustainability with a career spanning over 25 years. Past roles include speech writer for the UK’s chief sustainability advisor and Oxford University’s first Public Relations advisor on the environment.

She has Honours and Master’s degrees from the University of Cambridge.

Head of Natural Environment Specialist Services


Position: Head of Natural Environment Specialist Services, Auckland Council

Samantha (Sam) Hill is an ecologist and strategic leader with a Master’s in Science from the University of Auckland and over 20 years of experience in local, regional and national policy, regulatory, management, steering and advisory roles.

Sam thrives on innovation, tangible outcomes, collaboration and impact. She is an advocate for community-led conservation and demonstrates a trust-based leadership style. Being the mother of two daughters,

Sam is particularly passionate about championing and supporting women to enter and progress their careers in science-based industries. Sam is an avid adventurer and explorer of both the water and land, and is excited to be a mentor in the programme for a second year running!

Head of Impact


Position: Head of Impact, Proxima

Saskia Verraes is a devoted fighter for a better world. One that is socially just, economically inclusive and environmentally restorative. Saskia is the Director of Impact at Proxima Consulting and Sustainable Futures Adviser at Earth Futures Lab within AcademyEX.

In both roles she leverages her 25+ years experience in various international senior and executive roles including as Chief Responsible Management Officer for Tourism Holdings Limited in Auckland.

To regenerate, Saskia loves to cook and spend time with her husband and three dogs in the beautiful Paparoa.

Community Engagement and Partnerships Manager


Position: Community Engagement and Partnerships Manager, Kainga Ora Homes and Communities

Jody Fotu Jackson is Samoan woman who has spent the first 25 years of her life in Samoa before making New Zealand home. Her work has been in education, strategy and community development. Jody attained a Master of Management Studies, Management and Sustainability where her thesis focussed on the uptake of sustainable business practices amongst SMEs.

Jody teaches dance, loves researching and attempting to recreate indigenous material arts and couture for performance and storytelling.

She finds joy in collaborating with different groups and organisations; be it a dance academy, corporate, a group of women or a classroom of enthusiastic tamariki (children).

Founder, Auckland Climate Festival


Position: Founder, Auckland Climate Festival

Michelle Kennedy is the Founder of Six Generations, the social enterprise behind Auckland Climate Festival, the largest celebration of climate action in Aotearoa New Zealand that unifies and powers up communities to amplify and accelerate change.